Supermarkets should be made to pay more for the food packaging waste they create, according to a survey conducted by local councils.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 466 authorities in England and Wales, said although the weight of supermarket food packaging had gone down over the past two years, almost 40 per cent of it still could not be easily recycled.
The LGA report argues that supermarkets should contribute towards the cost of recycling and waste disposal services so they are encouraged to produce less packaging in general.
As well as making recycling easier and more affordable this would also ease the burden of landfill tax on local government, it said.
Landfill tax costs councils £32 for every tonne of rubbish they throw away – a figure that will rise to £48 a tonne by 2010 – meaning that by 2011 an estimated £1.8billion will have been spent on it since 2008.
LGA chairman Cllr Margaret Eaton said: “Britain is the dustbin of Europe with more rubbish being thrown into landfill than almost any other country in Europe.
“Taxpayers don’t want to see their money going towards paying landfill taxes and EU fines when council tax could be reduced instead.”
She added: “If we had less unnecessary packaging it would cut costs and lead to lower prices. When packaging is sent to landfill, it’s expensive for taxpayers and damaging for the environment.
“Supermarkets need to up their game so it’s easier for people to help the environment.”
But the food and packaging industry branded the LGA’s findings as “nonsense”.
The British Retail Consortium said the survey failed to acknowledge the key role packaging played in preserving food.Its head of environment Bob Gordon said: “It’s a nonsense to suggest that retailers swathe their goods in masses of unnecessary packaging. This would simply be a pointless cost. Packaging reduces waste by protecting and preserving products.”
Jane Bickerstaffe, director of the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment, added: “The report is naive.”